Victim privacy at community based DV programs protected by law

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If you are a battered woman, what you tell an advocate at a domestic violence program is private and protected by Colorado law.  What you tell a victim assistant who works for the district attorney or a law enforcement agency is not private.

We have had more reports from victims recently that they were barred from getting services through SHARE, Inc. by local law enforcement agencies. 

For example, one victim who asked for a SHARE advocate was told that she could “only have only one advocate at a time.” Presumably this meant the victim assistant provided through the law enforcement agency. 

Critical differences between government-based victim assistant programs and community based domestic violence programs.

There are several important and critical distinctions between services that are and can be provided by government-based victim assistant offices, such as criminal justice and law enforcement offices, and community based programs providing services to victims of domestic violence. 

The most critial difference is that confidentiality of  information given by a victim to a community based domestic violence agency such as SHARE is protected by Colorado law.  Information a victim gives to a victim assistant is not privileged or private.

Obviously, the employer of the victim assistant is the law enforcement agency or office of the district attorney, and the employer has access to anything in the victim file. This information could be used against the interests of the victim, including filing charges against her, or taking other action without consulting the victim that could put her in grave danger. There are also examples in the 13th Judicial District of inappropriate actions victim assistants have taken with battered women, including a case where a victim assistant told the victim she had to fill out a financial affidavit for a bond reduction hearing for her estranged husband who had been arrested for beating her — in other words, directing the victim to help the perpetrator get out of jail and place herself in danger again. 

Other important distinctions include that the primary purpose of victim assistant offices is to ensure that victims of many types of crimes have information about their rights, and community based domestic violence programs like SHARE focus on domestic abuse victims, they have extensive training and expertise in the field, and their services are tailored to the unique needs of their clients.   The full range of services provided by  SHARE includes 24-hour crisis response, help with protective orders, emergency shelter, transitional housing, individual advocacy, support groups, going to court with a victim, children’s programs, a supervised visitation and safe exchange program, and other supportive services provided in English and Spanish. Obviously, these services are far beyond the scope of a victim assistant program.

Because we believe it is important for victims of domestic abuse to understand the basic differences about privacy of the information they give, we have a page about it here and are reprinting it below:

PRIVACY OF INFORMATION GIVEN BY VICTIMS TO SHARE AND OTHER COMMUNITY-BASED DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROGRAMS IS PROTECTED BY COLORADO LAW

SHARE firmly supports victims’ rights to confidentiality in all areas of our work.  

Under Colorado Revised Statute 13-90-107 (k), SHARE must hold all client information confidential. This includes information a client tells us about herself and her family. It also includes information about whether or not a person is currently or has ever been a client.  

There are only three exceptions to this law: suspicion of child abuse (SHARE is a mandated reporter), imminent threat of homicide or harm of another or imminent threat to self. As Morgan County’s only Domestic Violence agency, we take the responsibility of safety of information very seriously and welcome client questions regarding confidentiality.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT LACK OF PRIVACY OF INFORMATION GIVEN BY VICTIMS TO GOVERNMENT-AGENCY BASED VICTIM SERVICES, SUCH AS  OFFICE OF DISTRICT ATTORNEY, POLICE DEPARTMENTS, AND SHERIFF’S OFFICES.

Government-based victim services such as victim assistant programs provided by an office of a district attorney, a police department or county sheriff’s office, are not covered under the privacy statute.  Information given to a victim assistant employed by one of these agencies is not confidential and can be shared with others in law enforcement.

https://shareinc.wordpress.com/confidentiality/

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